I was dosed without my consent by a friend. It was my first time taking mushrooms and while I did end up having a pleasant experience, I’m angry with my friend. How do I let my community know that this is not ok? And how can other people avoid being dosed and what should they do if it happens to them?
First of all, I want to validate that what your friend did was a complete violation of your consent and autonomy. The basic message is simple: Don’t give anyone drugs without their consent, no matter what. It is assault. Reiterating this message to your community – specifically using the language that it is assault – may help to drive the point home. There are indeed people who believe that they should “share” or “gift” an experience to others, a practice that – again – is assault.
That’s the abridged answer to situations like yours, where you know that someone has intentionally given you a substance without you knowing or agreeing to it. Since you asked about other people avoiding being dosed, I want to zoom out on a broader topic: There has been an explosion of conversation about non-consensual dosing this year. Sometimes people do get non-consensually dosed – like you with your friend – but right now DanceSafe is seeing that the fear of being dosed is leading an increasing number of people to think they’ve been dosed when they haven’t.
We’ve gotten tagged in countless online threads with people making claims about having been dosed via biologically improbable (or downright impossible) methods like powder-blowing, skin spraying (without contacting mucous membranes), hugging, handshakes, injection, and all kinds of other stuff that simply cannot happen in the contexts described. Perhaps more concerningly, folks have been wildly speculating about the involvement of seemingly random substances that might have made them feel weird.
An example of this is increasing claims of people being “sprayed” or “hugged” with GHB, a viscous liquid that will not be absorbed through the skin by either of those methods. All drugs have dosages, forms, bioavailabilities, subjective effects, physical effects, and all sorts of other factors that will determine how they’re administered and what they feel like. The fact is, almost none of the reports that DanceSafe investigates include symptoms or timelines that even remotely match the drugs that are claimed to have been involved.
As you can imagine, this becomes a very tender topic very quickly. The idea that someone’s experience of assault is being questioned or invalidated is obviously a very tender topic. Again: Sometimes people do get dosed non-consensually (like in your case). But this trend of folks accidentally misidentifying drug-facilitated assault is very important to acknowledge, because no one deserves to go through the distress and trauma of believing that they were assaulted when they were not.
The root message here remains that dosing someone without their consent, regardless of intention, is assault. Say it over and over again.
If someone is dosed, next steps will depend on the specifics of the situation. In general I’d say that the most important first response is to find someone who’s sober and explain how you’re feeling to them, without trying to speculate together on what might be going on. Seek medical attention if you’re feeling unwell or at risk (loss of consciousness, overheating, psychosis, excessive vomiting).
Sometimes feeling physically unwell/at risk is actually just a manifestation of a strong subconscious panic response – I see this at every event where I work with DanceSafe, or any other organizations I do harm reduction work with. That’s why I do not recommend trying to diagnose your experience. Treat any symptoms that arise and allow medical providers to do their work if needed.
I’ll note here that if you’ve been dosed with a psychedelic substance, you know. You trip. You don’t just “feel off” or “feel like you’re coming up” for a bit. You’ll also be tripping for the entire normal duration of the substance in question, taking any medications into consideration. If you’ve been dosed with a psychedelic and are tripping, I suggest finding a trusted sober person or sanctuary as soon as possible. Try to set the stage by explaining how you’re feeling and asking if someone can help support you as you get grounded in the experience. If it is truly an emergency, some drugs like Trazodone have been found to be more effective than benzodiazepines at halting a trip. The safety of this practice will depend entirely on the individual and any medications they’re on.
Keep in mind that medical professionals and law enforcement officers are not drug experts, and anything they say about what you may or may not have been dosed with is purely speculation. They do not have the equipment required to confirm or deny anything; that requires a toxicology report. Event medics have, frankly, been at the forefront of spreading blatant misinformation about people getting dosed. If you really want to know what happened, request a toxicology report from a hospital as soon as possible after the incident. This is the only way to know what was actually in your system.
Regarding prevention: There are some basic practices that everyone should observe to prevent getting dosed. Do not leave drinks unattended and ideally put a cup cover on your drinks as well. Don’t hit joints from strangers (sometimes people have synthetic cannabis without even realizing it, actually). Don’t take bumps of powders from strangers. Test the drugs that you buy and accept from others, including your friends, even if they say they’ve already been tested. Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless they’re buying them for you directly at the bar while you watch. Talk to your friends about the importance of never dosing other people without their consent, and establish that boundary immediately. I know this is a bit of a wordy answer, and I could go on forever because this topic is so very important and SO very sensitive. I hope this helps a bit.
What are Blue Mondays and do they always have to happen after taking MDMA?
Not sure if I’ve already used this statement in this column, but your brain has limited reserves of serotonin, and rolling excessively is like squeezing a lemon that’s already dry. In my west coast circles we’ve always called it “Tuesday Blues” because the grumpiness often sets in a few days after the weekend roll.
Basically, serotonin is a precious neurotransmitter in your body. It’s involved in all kinds of processes – circadian rhythm, arousal, appetite, social behavior, emotional response – and it has a lot of “downstream” effects, which means that it has relationships with other neurotransmitters too. The brain contains almost a hundred billion neurons. Seriously, your melon is one complex beast.
This means that the brain and body are one continuous series of relationships and micro-relationships. Things like “signal cascades” occur as domino effects, so it can be very difficult to trace the full web of impact that a single event has in the brain. Even something as simple as sucking down a McFlurry will cause ping-ponging interaction between serotonin, glutamate, endocannabinoids, norepinephrine, adrenergic receptors, TRP channels… you get the idea.
What I’m getting at is that the lemon analogy, while entertaining, is a very simple explanation for what is ultimately a very rich process: your body always trying to reach homeostasis (balance). I do think that people tend to underestimate the acute impact of having a sudden depletion of a large reserve of any neurotransmitter. MDMA is a powerful releasing agent, primarily of serotonin (but also dopamine and norepinephrine to a much lesser extent). There is no natural phenomenon that I’m aware of that can release and use serotonin like MDMA can.
There’s a lot of emerging science on this topic, and I suggest keeping up to date with the MAPS reports that come out periodically. My most recent understanding is that the post-MDMA state (blues) is influenced largely by a mixture of 1) having lower baseline availability of serotonin, causing lower serotonin binding rates where it “does its thing” and 2) a compensation due to this scarcity, where less serotonin is released to bind. Drug science moves fast, so our understanding of this may change (or perhaps it already has).
If you’re rolling on very large amounts, especially in hot environments, you are at increased risk of acute neurotoxicity (cell damage) which may worsen your comedown and blues. As far as I know, this has shown to be largely reversible with a period of abstinence.
Reducing your dose of MDMA (try to only dose once in a night, on the lowest viable dose for you) and rolling less often (I recommend once or twice a year) will probably help as well. Try to roll in as cool of an environment as possible. Some folks find that taking supplements, like the ones on rollsafe.org, significantly improves the post-roll experience. I always recommend babyproofing your life as much as possible for a full week after rolling; sometimes you “feel fine” but stupid things set you off, or you just have lower energy levels overall.
Sometimes in my solo journeys, I have negative experiences where I feel like I’m being told I’m inadequate or something is wrong with me. I thought psychedelic experiences were supposed to help people improve themselves, but I feel down after this type of experience. Can negative epiphanies be helpful?
I think that a lot of people come into psychedelic experiences with the expectation you’re quoting (“help people improve themselves”). Psychedelics aren’t supposed to do anything, and neither are you. They are as they are, and you are as you are, and psychedelics tend to magnify what already exists within you.
That includes your insecurities. There are three main insecurities I hear people recount to me, when discussing an experience OR explaining why they won’t do certain drugs: 1) Not wanting to be out of control; 2) not feeling good enough; 3) not wanting to be uncomfortable. It has been very humbling for me to hear, time and time again, from almost everyone I speak to about their deepest fears, that “not being good enough” is at the core of their wounds.
I think that perhaps an anecdote would be helpful here. I have the date of one mushroom trip tattooed on my ribs, from when I was 16 years old. It was a total catastrophe. I had sought out psychedelics because I’d read in the Erowid vaults that they could improve me, and instead I was sobbing uncontrollably on a park bench and repeating “why does anyone do this?” out loud for an hour. It was the first time that mushrooms had felt unsafe or unkind, and it took me a while to understand that I felt unsafe and unkind inside of myself. I was being reflected back.
I kept digging and searching even after that, building a relationship with mushrooms and other substances, and one day I realized that I had been doing something unconsciously the whole time: Building a relationship with myself. Learning my body and my mind and working with myself, not against myself, to brave unknown waters and seek something more substantial in my life. I consider that horrible, very bad day when I was 16 to have been a pivotal point where I decided to, as I have said, “pay the troll toll” and play on my own team. It was one of the most important things that’s ever happened to me.
It could be that psychedelics aren’t right for you, and that’s also completely and totally fine. My advice is framing this as a relationship, like I said, both with you and a substance and you and yourself. Healthy relationships require trial and error, boundaries, compromise, love. Maybe affection. I’ll never forget the first time in my life that I thought to myself, “I’m so glad you’re here with me.” And I hope that you’ll experience that too, regardless of how you get there.
About Your Psychedelic Auntie
When we have questions about psychedelics, we often consult our Auntie. An Auntie can be a person of any gender who offers wise advice about psychedelic substances and how to effectively use them. Lucid News is asking a collection of well-informed people to step in as Auntie and answer your questions about psychedelics. Some of the best peer-based, accurate information about psychedelic substances and harm reduction comes from DanceSafe, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1998. DanceSafe provides health and safety services at festivals and events. This month, our Psychedelic Auntie is DanceSafe Programs and Communications Coordinator Rachel Clark. Send your questions to the Psychedelic Auntie via the Lucid News contact page and watch this space for the answers.